Salute the Awww!

It was barks and wags as veterinary college felicitates dogs from armed forces along with therapy dogs

Astonished at the many photographers vying for their pictures, and glinting medals hanging from their necks, 20 dogs barked, grunted and strutted up the stage at the Bombay Veterinary College (BVC), Parel, where they were felicitated on Saturday morning. The dogs, all of whom are in service with the Army, National Security Guard (NSG), Mumbai Police, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), and Railway Protection Force (RPF), were felicitated for their service to the country as part of the college’s annual festival — Spandan.

Congratulations, young man! A German Shepherd with the CISF at the dog felicitation programme on Saturday at Bombay Veterinary College BVC, Parel. (right) Nine-year-old Oscar, a Labrador with the Mumbai Police, who helped detect live grenades during 26/11. PICS/DATTA KUMBHAR.
Congratulations, young man! A German Shepherd with the CISF at the dog felicitation programme on Saturday at Bombay Veterinary College BVC, Parel.

From ferocious CISF Dobermans to the quiet, but sharp, Belgian Melanoise dogs of the NSG and the adorable Mumbai Police Labradors, the four-legged soldiers showed off their training, with every ‘Saavdhan!’ command being met with rapt attention. The star of the day was Labrador Oscar, a hero among the police force for his role in sniffing out live grenades at CST during 26/11. A gold medal, courtesy of the Mumbai police already glinting in his neck, Oscar and another Labrador Heera, went up on stage, accompanied by their trainers, to a roaring applause.

(right) Nine-year-old Oscar, a Labrador with the Mumbai Police, who helped detect live grenades during 26/11. PICS/DATTA KUMBHAR.
Nine-year-old Oscar, a Labrador with the Mumbai Police, who helped detect live grenades during 26/11. PICS/DATTA KUMBHAR.  

Oscar’s former trainer, Vinod Ballal, who is now a sub-inspector with the Mumbai Police, was overcome by emotion, when the nine-year-old was presented its medal. “It is always officers or army men who get recognition and honour, but these animals are heroes too. Oscar is like my child, and I feel like a proud parent right now,” he said, just as Oscar walked down the stage, his goodie bag clutched in his mouth.

Dr SD Ingole
Dr SD Ingole

This first-of-its-kind dog felicitation organised by the students of the veterinary college received plenty of support and adulation. Dr SD Ingole, head of the physiology department, BVC, said, “This is a brainchild of our students, who want people to realise the importance of these canines in our lives. They are not just pets, but soldiers," he said.

Throwing light on the importance of dogs in the armed forces, chief guest Lt Col Dr Sanjay Borse of Meerut’s Remount Veterinary Corps, said, “Labradors are exceptional at sniffing, whereas German Shepherds are great for guarding. Basic obedience training is given for three months, after which they are deployed in different departments,” he said.

For therapy too
It was not only the military trained canines that walked away with honours, but also four ‘therapy dogs’ from the Animal Angels Foundation, an animal-assisted therapy NGO. The NGO’s senior-most dog, Goldie, along with two others, Sunshine and Pepe — all Golden Retrievers — work at the Mumbai International Airport, helping nervous fliers beat the blues.

“A dog will never be judgmental, and this is the most important aspect in animal-assisted therapy. We work with autistic children, people with dementia and mental health issues. These dogs have helped them better their cognitive skills and the ability to show emotions,” said Akash Lonkar, director, Animal Angels Foundation.

The canines may not have quite got what the fuss was all about, but we sure got the warm fuzzy feeling right, as the stern-faced commandos and cops lit up with wide smiles, as their four-legged colleagues wore their much deserved medals.

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